When the Cathedral meets the Bazaar

When applying it to the field of communications and media, we like to think of Eric S. Raymond’s concept of the cathedral and of the bazaar as two binary poles. That we can only have one at the exclusion of the other.

It is easy to think this way. The cathedral is symbolic for walled garden media generation. One where everything—contribution, user access points, production processes and feedback loops—is controlled by and visible to a select number of people. The bazaar, however, is a symbol of open garden, open source media production. One where every aspect of creation can be accessed and contributed to, by anyone at any time.

My video demonstrates how these two aspects can be complementary. It shows how my high school Major Design Project was made successful through the incorporation of products resultant from bazaar processes into a cathedral system. This being my combination of the Arduino with codes from GitHub and designs from the Fusion 360 gallery—all of which are open source—with my own iterative design process—which was tightly controlled by myself.

The video itself was inspired by many process videos which came before it.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.03.59 AM

In 2017, this Ultra Tune advertisement was aired Australia-wide. It racked up no less than 357 complaints, one of which described it as a “disgusting portrayal of women pandering to a supposed male sexual fantasy about dumb sexy women having a water fight.”

The advertisement was found by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) not to contravene the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) code of ethics. This is in spite of its clear violation of section 2.4 of the code which prohibits images which are “highly sexually suggestive and inappropriate for the relevant audience… [and] not relevant to the product or service being advertised.”

The Ultra Tune ad particularly emphasises the women’s jiggling buttocks and wet shirts.

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These elements, amongst others, strip the women of humanising traits until their only defining feature is their sex appeal, conflating them with objects. An act which is both degrading and exploitive. It is the textbook definition of sexual objectification.

In response to backlash about the depictions, Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley commented that, “Women can jump up and down all they want but they’re not our target audience”. He notes that, “the ads work brilliantly” for their target market consisting of “95%” men who he claims “make the automotive decisions”.

What key issues need to be considered?

What Buckley fails to realise is that in being so successful with using sex to sell his company’s services, he is fortifying many social and psychological problems now ingrained in our society.

pexels-photo-568021

Advertisements such as the one from Ultra Tune, relentlessly propagate and normalise the notion that women are in real life what these images portray—sexual and superficial objects which exist for the pleasure of being seen and not heard; that women’s prime and only purpose is as a tool for male arousal.

Women consequently feel pressured to find validation and respect by trying to fulfil these unrealistic sexual and bodily standards.

Women’s Health West remarks that failing in this pursuit often leads to women having a “negative body image” which “can have serious implications for women and girl’s physical and psychological health status, as it is associated with the development of eating disorders, depression, self-harm and suicide.”

It should be noted that in 2018, one year after the release of the Ultra Tune advertisement, the AANA code was updated to specifically restrict the objectification of people. In essence, the portrayal of “sexual appeal which is exploitive and degrading” in advertisements now comes with greater risk for advertisers.

What are the implications for practitioners?

Its a situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Advertisers need to weigh up their social responsibility with their responsibility to do their job effectively. They must ask themselves if there is a better, more empowering way in which they could sell their product. A way which would benefit both their work and society equally.

It is important for advertisers to consider that empowerment sells quite well. Adweek conducted a study in which it was found that, “Women ages 18 to 34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that made an empowering ad…” It is likely that these favourable thoughts were converted into a multitude of profitable purchases as Forbes asserts positive perception gives brands an edge in the market.

Who wouldn’t feel good about a brand after watching something like this? >>


In an ideal world, advertisers would empower as much as they objectify women in real life. Sadly, given the nature of business, the most universally important answer to the question, ‘If ‘sex sells’, why should advertisers avoid the sexual objectification of women?’ is: ‘because of the new risk—resultant from the updated AANA code—now involved in presenting objectified images in advertising… and perhaps because of a little guilt.’

If you’re an advertiser and you want to avoid the depiction of sexual objectification then you should consider this checklist written by Brian Niselin, and consider it carefully…

…because if you’re not a ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ type of person then hopefully you at least have a ‘try not to f*ck everything up’ kind of philosophy.

A New Reality

TWD.gif

Academics like Henry Jenkins tend to highlight the logistical elements of transmedia narratives. Generally, this includes things like “creating different points of entry for different audience segments” and the creation of “complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories”. Admittedly, many popular franchises come to mind when I think of this, but the one that stays with me is The Walking Dead. Made up of an unending series of comics, two television series, multiple ‘Tell Tale’ video games, and some more unorthodox media formats, Robert Kirkman’s world of the undead has become a great success.

In considering all these elements, the one thing that strikes me most about transmedia storytelling is its propensity to submerge its audiences into a new reality. By propagating many stories from the one world across multiple channels, a filter bubble is created in which what we perceive to be real is altered. In my remediation I wanted to capture this unnerving side of transmedia narratives whilst enmeshed with the typical aspects I mentioned earlier. I wanted to help people realise how chilling it is to truly see and think about the world in a way that is altered by the unreal.

Thats not to say transmedia narratives are bad, I just think we need to consider how they truly affect us.

You Wouldn’t Steal a Hedwig

Copyright aims to control the spread of memes because the industry wants to control content and ideas. My remediation this week is an example of how this model of highly restrictive copyright is incompatible with the internet.

The internet is open source, no matter how much big businesses try to create control and scarcity. Produsers, such as myself, will always find a way to take someone else’s content and remix it into their own new creation. The internet is optimised for this. There are thousands of online tools available which facilitate the ripping, mixing and mashing of online content. In the battle between prosumers and industry, participatory culture and monopolised material, open and closed formats, the algorithmic measures taken by sites such as YouTube and Soundcloud are insufficient. This week I was told that copyright aims to protect creators but the internet undermines this. Anyone can take an iconic theme song and use an online mashup tool to mix it with a warning video about piracy to create the world’s most ironic banger.

World of Internet Warcraft

The rise of digital and social media has led to a change in how messages, ideas and ideologies are propagated. Anyone with these technologies can produce, aggregate and curate content, without being a professional communicator, and I was inspired this week to do just that.

The information people want to portray can be easily packaged as memes and presented to the consumer, relentlessly injecting that message into the minds of many, thus regimenting the public’s mindset. This process can be used as a more perverted and pervasive form of psychological warfare due to its open-access, and far-reaching attributes—known as meme warfare. Meme warfare can have real and serious consequences without the consumer ever knowing they are being influenced, which only enhances how dangerous this digital weapon can be.

My video is, in itself, an example of how easy it is for an amateur to create what they want for their own agenda and share it with an audience, and influence how people think. I also hope to raise people’s awareness of this topic because in the age of the internet, gullibility will be the death of reason.

We Are the New Media

Wk6 Meme Final
59:25 “… anyone can just jump in there, fix it up and change it. If people want to change the background, they can… Anyone can pick it up and do whatever they want with it.” — Travis Wall

 

The post-industrial digital-age has enabled citizen-journalists and media makers to be considered respectable, or at least view-worthy, authorities because they are unique in their production style. Audiences appreciate the unpackaged, unfiltered style of citizen media as it affords the proliferation of both a diversity of perspectives and of content unsuitable for legacy media. I felt inspired to create a media object that fits this description when some of my lecturers spoke about how anyone can do anything to media on the internet. I literally took the media where they said this and made it completely my own. I knew that this would get a response from the part of my audience that exists in my class.

The fact that I, a student from Wollongong who is part of this group of ‘people formerly known as the audience’ (aka everyone), can reach and be listened to by so many people, is why journalism is a profession in crisis. We have demystified the art of giving facts and creating content, lowering the pedestals of authority upon which journalists once sat, until they become level with us. They have become part of our distributed network, they are like us now.

The Digital Public Sphere

The digital age has given Habermas’ classic idea of the ‘public sphere’ a face lift. No longer do we learn about and discuss the news, current events, and social/cultural/political issues of the moment solely from physical sources (legacy media) and face-to-face interactions. Digital and social media have heralded a new age of discourse, allowing us as audience members to actively engage (debate, deliberate and support) with these issues as we discover them in real-time.¹

Twitter is the most prolific micro-blogging platform around: a melting-pot of global, digital conversation and opinion. The public sphere of choice for instant connection with a diverse, mass audience. It has the ability to expose one to an array of thoughts and facts beyond an individual’s personal realm of understandings. A multiplicity arising from following and viewing any member’s tweets, and the ability to view tweets from people one has not subscribed to, through another’s use of the ‘retweet’ button.

Within the sphere of Twitter, exist sphericules of limited subject matter.

The bcm110 hashtag has created a sphericule in the form of a forum (which I am part of) facilitating the UOW Communications and Media student’s learning of their chosen craft, operating through a ‘thrown in the deep end’ approach. We learn about media through using it, and by making our own mistakes with it. We learn from the relevant articles we share with each other, and through the opportunity it affords us to share our own external media creations with a willing and understanding audience.

Our sphericule is not saturated with hot debate of current issues (such as the Twitter-popular gun control debate), but, these current issues may sometimes arise when related to an area of media study. This is because the #bcm110 forum is made up of a cozy family of students and ex-students who have taken the ‘Introduction to Communications and Media’ class, and the wonderful professors who make this class possible. Twitter users not a part of this like-minded collective aren’t strictly excluded from this sphericule, however when they do come across it, a lack of understanding of the subject matter may hinder their own involvement.

The media’s role in our little sphericule is quite different to its typical role within the broader sphere of Twitter. Usually the media would try to generate discussion and convert opinion by disseminating and selling their own ideologies. In the #bcm110 forum however, as a result of our use and applications of the ‘space’ as a learning tool, we turn the media to our own advantage, picking it apart and examining it in detail so we can understand its inner workings, allowing us to become better media creators.

If you have any more thoughts about the digital public sphere then join the ‘Young Dreamer’ sphericule by commenting down below.


¹ Thirroul, S 2018, The Media Theory Toolbox’, lecture, University of Wollongong, delivered 27 March

The Internet: Connective, Collective

Crisis Averted

In 2018, the internet dominates over legacy media. Its network configuration affords dialogic conversation from many people to many other people. Media can now be consumed, produced and remixed by anyone, due to its inherent ubiquitous connectivity (i.e. it is cheap, participatory and immediate). Social networks allow for a new mode of participation where we can coordinate and mobilise in response to real world issues and events.

This idea of ubiquitous connectivity has implications which are evident in real life circumstances. Clay Shirky discusses how the internet enabled citizen journalism in China’s 2009 earthquakes, which prompted me to make this gif as a summation of the general process of empowered network participation. In short, people were reporting on what was happening as it happened by posting videos and images of the devastation in China. Not long after, it was discovered that the reason why so many schools collapsed was because of shady government dealings. Through the internet, citizens were able to coordinate and mobilise protests both online and in real life; they were able to share their personal stories and collaborate on solutions to their problems. All this was done instantly and free of charge, having massive and severe consequences across the nation.

Shirky’s TED Talk examines these implications in much more depth and is a really interesting watch. Leave a comment on what you found most interesting about his talk.

Puppets and Our Masters

Wk 4 We Own You

GIPHY made by me, images: Stokes , Murdoch , Singleton , Gordon

Bruce Gordon, Rupert Murdoch (and Lachlan Murdoch), John Singleton, Kerry Stokes and CBS.

They’re the purple circle of puppeteers who manipulate our legacy media. They’re Australia’s media industry owners, and by extension, they own our thoughts, our actions and our attitudes, all in alignment with their own philosophies… Or do they?

It is true that having such a small group of media owners should cause anxieties about limiting the diversity of ideologies reaching Australian responders. This matters because people believe that we will be manipulated easily, like all passive responders, being un-critical in our judgments and accepting all information at face-value. Thus allowing the media owners to manipulate the socio-political climate of Australia.¹

Robert Manne for the ABC proved this in part when he wrote:

Rupert Murdoch, “has… use(d) the 70 per cent of the national and statewide press he owns to ensure that the values drawn from his right-wing political philosophy remain dominant within the political mainstream.” ²

What this perspective does not consider is the prevalence of ‘citizen-journalism’—that is:
“The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.” ³

This other form of journalism, proliferated easily online to a large audience, may combat the closed-minded nature of legacy media by providing a refreshing assortment of ideologies. This is done by presenting various news and opinion stories, that may not have been told by mainstream media or may have been presented with particular bias by mainstream media. This type of journalism inherently facilitates its audience’s activity as the platforms used are often dialogic, which enables audience discussion and critical thinking to occur.

At the same time however, we can never fully trust citizen-journalism. It is difficult for responders to know where citizen-journalists acquired their sources—are they credible? Are they from the legacy media, and by extension the ‘puppeteers’, whose views we are trying to evade?

Regardless of which source we are seeking news from, trust must never be fully given. It is prudent to make sure that what we read:

  • has been written by someone with credibility on the issue,
  • is clear in its meaning,
  • is transparent about its biases,
  • and can be corroborated by other sources or explains reasonably why it cannot be corroborated by other sources.

Please use your powers of critical thinking and discuss in the comments what you think about this issue. Should we be concerned about media ownership? Do you think it matters?


¹ Middlemost, R 2018, Media Industries and Ownership’, lecture, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 March

² Manne, R 2011, ‘Power without responsibility: Rupert Murdoch’s Australian,’ ABC, 5 September, viewed 25 March <http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/09/05/3309666.htm&gt;

³ ‘citizen journalism’ unknown, in Oxford Living Dictionary, Oxford University Press, viewed 25 March, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/citizen_journalism&gt;

Kardashian is the Message

The concept—the medium is the message—is best understood not through its literal meaning, but through the visible impacts it has on society.

Take the ‘Kardashian effect’ for example. The use of reality television and social media (medium) to portray the luxurious lives of the Kardashians, has had the effect of audiences wanting to be like the Kardashians, consequently changing their actions and attitude in an attempt to achieve their newly desired lifestyle (message).

This is a repetitive process. Due to the increasingly wide-scale response to the Kardashians, they are able to use more mediums (websites, online stores) to produce more messages for their audience, who reciprocate by creating their own related content, all of which flows across platforms in slightly differing copies of each other.

This process evolves over time in alignment with the concept of ‘trajectories of media convergence’. Where previously, audiences consumed media as a product, later they then were able to use media as a conversation; now however, we have moved beyond being just an ‘active media audience’; we as responders are able to produce, aggregate and curate content.


This post was inspired by a quote from Mark Federman: “”The medium is the message” tells us that noticing change in our societal ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium.”

Federman, M. (2004, July 23). ‘What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?’

All video content has been referenced via a list of links in the YouTube description box of the ‘Kardashian is the Message’ video.